“Oh The Places You Will Go!” – What Makes A Classroom?

The first week of teaching was a blur of matatus, tuk tuks and introductions meeting our Youth Groups for the first time.

But what became apparent was the “classrooms” or lack of, as it turned out.

So far the Balloon Kenya team has taught in churches, living rooms, bedrooms, rural villages, modern estates and on porches overlooking Lake Nakuru National Park.

This has got me thinking – what is it that makes a classroom?

I’ll admit that it can be hard not having a whiteboard. And it isn’t ideal that there are sometimes more people than chairs. And it can certainly be a distraction having children and kittens running around the floor!

But in a back to front upside down way, these challenging environments are opportunities to think creatively and build our own learning environments.

An example came in a session I had yesterday with Barraka Youth Group. We teach them in a living room and in our first sessions we stuck paper on the wall to conform to traditional classroom standards. Disappointingly the conversations were very awkward and sometimes it felt like getting blood out of a stone. So in the session yesterday I got everyone to sit together on the floor, we laid out the paper in middle and I told them that today they would have to do all the work. They laughed and the session went much better with everyone interacting.

So here is what I think makes a classroom. It’s our motivation combined with our group’s commitment that creates a classroom. It’s their energy and ideas and their willingness to learn that makes it worthwhile. In Kenya it’s not the whiteboard and chairs that count, it’s the people. And crucially it’s the breaking down of stereotypes and cultural barriers that give our groups the confidence to speak and find their voice. And sometimes, if all else fails, it helps to do the hokey cokey and dance around!